Why Finch Doesn’t Want Mario, Plus: “Strong-arm Tactics”

Note: The vote to select Bridgeport’s Democratic town chairman is scheduled for Tuesday night at Schwaben Hall on Horace Street. Should be a hoot! Predictions anyone? What candidate has 46 votes? Will it be the John Stafstrom/Cynthia King combo, former chair Mario Testa or Black Rock District Leader Danny Roach?

The befuddling doggedness of Mayor Bill Finch’s effort to canonize John Stafstrom as Democratic Party leader exists in Finch’s standing as a new chief executive.

See, new mayors are supposed to have goodwill, benefit of the doubt, optimism within their standing and a clean slate. So it’s not so unusual that a new mayor should be lining up for votes for his chosen party leader. It is, however, unusual, for a new mayor having to work so hard to keep a long-term party leader in play. Stafstrom’s the incumbent and Finch’s flapping his wings like a humming bird to keep his guy soaring.

If East Side District Leader Dottie Guman wanted to be a compromise candidate to lead the party, Finch would switch gears and urge everyone to knight her, despite kicking her in the teeth with a bombastic tirade after she dared to work against Stafstrom for telling her to fuck off. Finch has apologized to Guman, but I’m sensing that their relationship will never be the same. Dottie Guman, Mother Goose of the party, is starting not to trust the man whose political career she helped guide all the way to mayor.

The hypocrisy going on right now to select a party chair is thicker than Eliot Spitzer’s prosecuting prostitution rings and then hooking up with one.

“It would be terrible to go back to those days with Mario Testa,” Finch is telling DTC members on the payroll whose votes he wants, because Mario was the town chairman during the Ganim years.

Hypocrisy? You bet. I’ve known John Stafstrom for a long time. He’s smart, cagey, perceptive and persuasive. In his time he was an asset to the city, and still could be. He’s not effective in his current role. There was a time Stafstrom was the good government guy, a voice of reason in party politics even when he had enemies. John’s strength is patience. But with Stafstrom as party leader and city’s bond counsel, Finch cannot receive the full benefit of Stafstrom’s advice because the decisions John now makes are on behalf of the gypsies, tramps and thieves of the party. What makes it worse is John’s total circumvention of state law (smart lawyers do that).

State law prohibits Stafstrom, as an employee of a state contractor (his law firm) serving as official head of the party. So in a neat slip around the law he has persuaded a nice lady named Cynthia King to serve as his marionette, the “official” town chair while he pulls the strings as vice chair. In addition, Stafstrom has suffered a string of losses that raise serious questions about his ability to deliver candidates, including an embarrassing shellacking at the hands of Republican Rob Russo who filled the state senate seat vacated by Finch.

Well, Stafstrom delivered Finch for mayor, right? Wrong. Finch, (Mr. I’ll cut your taxes $600, a phony pledge sanctioned by Stafstrom) survived because State Rep. Chris Caruso ran a dumb race. Had he run the type of issues-based race Russo had, Caruso would be mayor. So, yes, in a strange way, all of this is Caruso’s fault!!! (Sorry Chris.)

The mayor committed to supporting Stafstrom a long time ago, so he now feels compelled to see it through.

Black Rock District Leader Danny Roach wants to be town chair as well. But for now at least Finch is pushing Stafstrom. “Look at all the money Stafstrom raises,” Finch cries about his king.

I know a little about the fundraising abilities of Stafstom and Testa. They’re both mighty. But Stafstrom doesn’t need to be party leader to raise money. “I’m worried about the Mario perception,” Finch tells DTC members.

Jesus, you want to govern by perception, okay … how’s this for perception: Finch right now is governing, by and large, incompetently. That’s the perception. Does that mean Finch should resign? No, you stay and hope to find your wings.

So, what’s the real reason Finch doesn’t want Mario? Finch is concerned that he’ll be neutered by Mario’s ability to navigate the political and governmental process beyond Finch’s control. That’s because If Mario becomes town chair (and it’s an if) he will not be bashful with Finch. Mario will tell him, I’ll work with you but if you continue to screw up, we’ll have problems. Then if Finch tells him to go pound more veal in his restaurant Mario will neuter him politically and search for a candidate to challenge him.

Welcome to the real world of politics.

This is why I’ve been screaming at Finch in this webzine to worry about governing. If you govern well the politics will follow. Don’t govern well and the politics become a big pain in the ass.

The following is the text of a letter to Mayor Bill Finch (dated March 15, 2008) signed by City Council member Evette Brantley and former City Council member Ralph Mojica, (recently dismissed from city employment to create an opening for a political patronage position) in which they allege “strong-arm tactics” by the mayor to persuade city employees on the Democratic Town Committee to vote for party leader John Stafstrom. I have asked the mayor’s office for a response. See letter below:

We are writing in protest of the unethical, strong-arm tactics that are being carried out by you and various members of your staff. With your public support for the Cynthia King/John Stafstrom tandem as Chair and Vice Chair of the Democratic Town Committee, you have compromised your duty as Chief Elected Official for our City. Recent changes in election laws forced John Strafstrom to resign as Town Chairman while serving as chair and Bond Council (sic) for the City of Bridgeport. The election laws prohibit his role as Chair and Bond Council (sic) as a conflict of interest. Moreover, Cynthia King serves as a “smokescreen” for John Stafstrom to continue running the Party from the post of Vice-Chair. This is a fraud upon the Democratic Party and the people we serve.

Your office’s overwhelming support of this unethical practice is unacceptable. Furthermore, your strong-arm tactics with City employees serves as a violation of ethical rule and a violation of the election laws of the State of Connecticut. It is clear that your office has taken the tone of threatening job security to City employees that may also serve on the Democratic Town Committee. You have insinuated that their vote for Chairperson will dictate the security of their employment. These practices have been common since your first day in office. In the March 11, 2008 edition of the Connecticut Post, your Chief of Staff Adam Wood was quoted as saying, “I’m here because I did a lot for Bill,” referring to his own employment. These are not the practices that the people of Bridgeport deserve.

We demand that you and your staff immediately stop these threats and intimidation tactics. Kindly let the members of the Town Committee have their independent voice without fear of consequences. Your role as Mayor is too extensive in duty to be putting priority on matters such as these.

M. Evette Brantley
Ralph Mojica



  1. Lennie, you too blame Caruso for all this mess. Remember that it was Mario who ran away when he got tired of hearing Caruso outside his door yelling “Corrupt”. After Mario’s departure, Stafstrom took all of Caruso’s hits and stood his ground ’til achieving victory. The voters are more to blame, as Caruso warned them about falling for the $600 tax refund promise. I still say that there is a higher chance that Stafstrom/Finch will gather more votes than Mario and Roach. I’m not too sure that Mario has all 10 votes from the 137th or all 9 from the 131st One thing for sure, there is a lot of bluffing going on. I raise you 9 votes!

  2. These are the two districts I’m most interested in. Does anyone care to hazard a guess on how each of these people are voting?

    I got these names from an old CT Post article so if there have been any changes please let me know. That’s also why there are jobs listed. For the purposes of this post I really don’t care about those.

    BTW – Lennie, I think you’re being a little too dismissive of the “perception” argument with regard to Testa. Finch may be disingenuous in his use of it. But, nonetheless it is a valid point.

    136th DISTRICT
    Dorothy Guman, former Planning and Zoning Commission member
    Max Medina, BOE member
    Cruz Cotto, police officer
    Marilyn Middlemass, Parent Advisory Council president
    Lawrence Osborne,city employee
    Mark Trojanowski, sister is city employee.
    Yanira Diaz-Olivares
    Adelaide Esteves
    Joyce Purnell

    138th DISTRICT
    Martha Santiago, city employee
    Robert Curwen, councilman, wife,city employee
    Andrew Fardy, wife P&Z chairwoman, former parks commissioner
    Kevin Monks, city employee
    Richard Paoletto, councilman; city employee
    Barbara Powell, BOE employee
    Mary Oleynick, poll worker
    John Swatkowski

  3. You know, a lot of people are scratching their heads trying to figure out how Mario came out of the Ganim scandal without an indictment. Think about this little tid bit that’s being bantered around … Maybe Mario was a little TOO cooperative with the FBI investigation leading to Ganim’s conviction. Just maybe Mario covered his own bony ass and got a pass.

  4. Yahooy I always gave you a lot of credit for knowing how the world turns. But on this one you are listening to BS. If in your scenario the Feds had something on Testa and in your scenerio he became a rat, he would have had to testify in court in order to get off the hook.
    Listen the Feds had all the information they wanted from Paul Pinto and others and if they could have landed the chairmen of the DTC you can bet they would have. The scenario you suggest by people bantering it about is 100% incorrect.

  5. Pinto has to be the biggest stool pigeon that ever lived! His testimony almost appears as if he’s making it up as he goes along. To the best of my recall, none of the beans he’s spilling now ever came up in the Ganim trial. He must be having flashbacks because he’s come up with a lot more dirt.

  6. This whole thing is very distasteful and the last thing Bpt needs. It is also another reminder of the huge disservice Joe Ganim and his cronies did to our city. So, please don’t anyone start telling me about what a great guy Joe was and all the wonderful things he did for Bpt. Just thinking about most of these people makes me feel the need to go take a shower.

  7. Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio, our nation turns it lonely eyes to you. What’s that you say Mrs. Robinson, joltin joe has left and gone away, hey hey hey.

    Everyone is saying why all the choices for DTC are bad. DOES ANYONE have a solution? Who can Bridgeport turn its lonely eyes to? Why don’t the people who have candidates that are not the endorsed Democratic candidates branch off and form their own party? Who has the answers? Seriously, how can everyone hate every option and no one have any answers?

    The DTC built a great wall. The DTC had a great fall. All the Mayor’s kiddies and all the henchmen, will never put it together again.

  8. John from Black Rock- Max is no longer on the 136th. I believe that 2 individuals from that district are pledged one to Roach and one to Stafstrom. The other seven are with Dottie, who has not been on P & Z for well over a year.

    Pollyanna it’s going to be a Field of Screams this week when DTC meets. I think it’s Bill Finch who will playing Humpty Dumpty.

  9. The weekend line on the efficacy of Mario Testa back at the helm of the BDTC would appear to indicate that it is not a very good idea. On this blog, specifically, Wondering suggests that Mario is totally misunderstood that he is actually the benevolent patriarch of our beloved city and only wants what is best for the citizenry. I looked for others with similar views to Wondering in this blog and the Weekly but was unable to find any others.

    In order to ensure that Fabrizi would meet little resistance in his mayoral election, Testa had to take a low profile and remove himself from further controversy. Fabrizi publicly distanced himself from Testa but could often be seen stuffing his fat face at a table in the kitchen of the old Testa’s (the only restaurant in Connecticut where the patrons [which included on and off duty police] were allowed to smoke at the bar.

    Therefore, I cannot in good conscience consider Testa’s quest to regain his power in the BDTC as something that would be of benefit to the people of our town. Nor, do I think it to be better if we were to bring in Stafstrom and to a lesser extent, Roach.

    This is but another example of the power of the very few in this town jamming down our throats their choice not ours.

    We desperately need very new blood in our political structure. There are people out there who have no agendas and govern our municipality as it must be governed.

  10. Wondering the feds did not get all the information they wanted from Pinto and others. Notice they haven’t indicted Willinger despite having strong evidence. Keep in mind that Joe Ganim is still remaining silent and that is were I think the facts can be found. People involved in these type of activities don’t talk to just anyone. It is always a small circle of associates at the top. Yahooy makes some valid and legitimate points.

  11. John from Black Rock there are some job changes regarding some on your list. Max is also the lead attorney for the new $teel Point Developer. Yout list is a tough one to guess on. But keep in mind that Finch has an advantage considering that he can pressure City Employees without pressuring them. Curwen was not happy with Stafstrom push for McCarthy for C.C. Pres. Most of these will wait to see wich way the ball bounces.

  12. yahooy has it right. It hardly matters who is elected DTC chair. Mario may be best at–as Lennie wrote–wielding the levers of power, which is to say that under Mario, Bridgeport city government essentially was a political organization, an arm of the Democratic Party, dedicated to raising (or kicking back) money and turning out votes, and answerable to him. Let’s leave aside the idea that Mario’s DTC demanded that city employees tithe a part of their salary to the Party … which is to say that BPT tax dollars essentially funded the DTC’s ongoing dominance of city affairs. (And people thought public financing of elections was a stretch? All the new system does is give money to the other side to even things out …) Finch is correct to be wary of this. I have less of an idea of Stafstrom’s level of organization but we can only judge by the results. You can’t take the politics out of politics … especially in this town. But (and again, a nod to Lennie) politics should be taking a back seat … it’s just that when the the pie shrinks, people tend to fight that much harder over their slice.

  13. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

    FBI should stand For Bridgeport’s Integrity!

    Clearly, Bill Finch and some of his ethically challenged staff haven’t gotten the message.

  14. For what it’s worth, I think Stafstrom/King win tomorrow night. I have very little inside knowledge and I will defer to anyone who does (Wondering?, Tom K? Town Committee?) but here’s how I think it will wind up:

    Stafstrom/King will get 7-9 votes from the 130th, 131st, 135th and 139th for a total of 28-36 votes. They will also get 5-6 votes from the 132nd 5 votes from the 134th and at least 2 votes from the 136th for another 12-13 votes. This brings their total to 40-49 votes. I’m guessing they can pick-up more votes here and there, particularly in the 138th to reach 46 if they come up on the short end of the 40-49 total.

    As I said, this is mostly just me having some fun with the numbers. I would really like to hear from someone who might have some better informed information.

  15. John from Black Rock- If Roach breaks his word to Mario and Dottie and goes to Stafstrom this is how I potentially see it for Mario. 130th (2), 131st (2), 132nd (3), 133rd (9), 134th (4), 135th (7), 136th (0), 137th (9), 138th (7)-They allegedly got to Mark Anastasi’s wife, 139th (3).

    If Stafstrom gives his votes to Danny then all bets are off and Mario wins easily because many of John’s votes don’t transfer to Danny. I think the many of the minorities won’t go with Danny.

    Key will be who gets to be the Kingmaker. Big problem for everybody running including the Mayor is they don’t have the jobs to pay off people for their vote. And don’t be surprised to see some type of legal action taking place with Jeff Garfield and possible police action with because of coercion type tactics.

    Bill has a short memory. He should remember when he in 2002 asked for Joe Ganim to resign and the collateral damage that almost happened to a couple of his supporters. Then he goes and employs a similar type tactic against one of the same people who supported him and now is the victim of Bill Finch with a coerced change of vote.

  16. John – Sorry my dyslexia kicked in. Should be 136th (7) and 135th (0). Thanks.

    Heard Sue B. stepped up Big Time tonight at council meeting. More to come.

  17. Tom I see it this way 130th 2; 131st 2; 132nd 3; 133rd 9; 134th 4; 135th 1; 136th 7 ; 137th 9 ; 138th 8; 139th 3 for a total of 48 votes for Testa at this point.
    I can’t for the life of me see why Roach is going back on his word to Testa. His lame-ass excuse that “his people” want him to run is a joke. Other than Dennis Scinto his people really want him to drop out of the race. If Roach can’t keep his word here how can you trust him?
    For those that are thinking that Stafstrom called this meeting for tonight because he has the votes think again. They could not call it for Wednesday because Finch will be in Stamford and Adam Wood will be in Windsor where they will be selecting candidates for the Democratic National Convention. Thursday night Stafstrom is gone on vacation to the Greek Isles. So Tuesday is the only night they could all be there. Tom & JBR these are the best I can do on the numbers.

  18. Oh how right you are. Those that have deceived will have to live with it. Promises that are sold,promises that are forgotten all have away of gaining a second life


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